‘How would you like a trip to China?’

Bruce’s suggestion was not entirely unexpected. His younger son, Cameron, had married a young Chinese woman, Eppie, earlier in the year. The two were now resident in China, Eppie working in Nanjing and Cameron teaching English in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

Nevertheless, apprehension swamped me as I considered the idea. It was a long time ago that I last took an overseas trip and I’m no longer the woman I once was. But, on consideration, I decided to accept the offer and Bruce was delighted. I accepted that my fate was sealed at that moment. For the following few weeks, Bruce was kept busy planning the trip and this he did with cheerful energy. Both of us worked hard to ensure we could leave everything in order and finally, after much careful packing and preparation, departure night arrived.

The International airport daunted me a little. It was the first time I’d seen the new structure and the vast luggage check-ins, the long, long walks through duty free shopping areas and along endless corridors to our departure gate was an adventure in itself. At last we boarded our plane, surprised to see so few people on it. The next challenge was to attempt to sleep sitting up. For the next few hours we tossed and turned, sleeping fitfully until at last dawn light shone through the small windows. I felt tired and deshabille and was relieved when the plane began its descent to Guangzhou Airport, centre of Chinese Southern Airlines.

On the ground, we quickly realised how extensive Guangzhou Airport is. We caught a bus from the plane to take us to the International-domestic Interchange where we would catch a domestic Chinese Southern plane to take us to Nanjing. I felt like a lost sheep as the language difficulty was very quickly obvious. Even though Chinese signs had English translations under them, there was much that signs could not tell us. It took us some time and much frustration to find our way to the right transfer queue. Eventually a small people-transport conveyed us closer to our gate. Already, the warm humid atmosphere was apparent.